Monday, November 29, 2010

love is

"Love is to reveal the beauty of another person to themselves."
-Jean Vanier

Sunday, November 28, 2010

classic Saturday

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667), in his Rule and Exercises of Holy Living, writes of nineteen rules that help a person battle pride and "exercise the grace of humility". All of his rules to develop humility stem from the first rule: to remember our unworthiness.

"First, do not think better of yourself because of any outward circumstance that happens to you. Although you may-because of the gifts that have been bestowed upon you- be better at something than someone else (as one horse runs faster than another), know that it is for the benefit of others, not for yourself. Remember that you are merely human and that you have nothing in yourself that merits worth except your right choices.

Second, humility does not consist in criticizing yourself, or wearing ragged clothes, or walking around submissively wherever you go. Humility consists in a realistic opinion of yourself, namely, that you are an unworthy person. Believe this about yourself with the same certainty you believe that you are hungry when you have gone without food."

Finally, "confess your sins often to God and don't think of them as scattered offenses in the course of a long life; a burst of anger here, an act of impatience there. Instead, unite them into one continuous representation of your life. Remember that a person may seem rather good if his faults are scattered over large distances throughout his lifetime; but if his errors and follies are placed next to one another, he will appear to be a vicious and miserable person. Hopefully this exercise, when really applied to your soul, will be useful to you for increasing the grace of humility."

Consider this exercise of confession with God this week. Just as several of us recently wrote out a thankful list, consider writing out a confession list. This will surely increase the recognition of our need for a Rescuer and our gratitude for God's grace through Christ.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

100 thanks

For what and whom are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? We were challenged in last Sunday's message at church to literally write out a thankful list. How focusing on blessings helps to cultivate gratitude which in turn opens and grows the heart.

So, this morning I numbered to 100 and completed it quickly. I could keep going. Maybe I will. Or maybe I'll just reflect on what I've written. God's love. God's grace through Christ. The Bible. The life of Jesus. The death of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus. The Holy Spirit. God's sovereignty. God's faithfulness.

As the list grew, I noticed that my categories would always start with a general word but the general word soon led me on tangents of thankfulness: Beauty. Nature. Mountains, forests, rivers, streams, blue sky, cool clouds, sunrises, sunsets, waterfalls, flowers, lakes, Lake Bertha in Minnesota, canoeing on Lake Bertha with my children.

And on...

Receive God's good gifts today. Acknowledge Him as the Giver. Share these blessings with others. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

what's with the Walnut Neighborhood?

This fall, Dave Bartlett, our visionary leader at Orchard Hill Church, has begun publicly talking about our church being called into the community of the Walnut Neighborhood in Waterloo. Perhaps you have some of these questions: "Where is the Walnut Neighborhood?" "How have we designated that neighborhood as an area of focus?" "What does it look like to partner with a neighborhood?" Good questions! I thought I'd take this blog post to address some of those questions.

First of all, the Walnut Neighborhood is located within these four perimeter streets: Franklin, E. 4th St., Dane, and Hway 63. It is the neighborhood of our partner church, Harvest Vineyard, and it is a neighborhood in which I've been called back into a number of times, each time with my heart growing more burdened for and in love with the neighborhood.

My first experience within the Walnut Neighborhood was the 32 years I went to church in the neighborhood at First Presbyterian. I recently had the privilege to speak at First Presbyterian on a Sunday morning. You can learn more about my heart and call to partner in the neighborhood by clicking here to read what I shared that morning.

Over the past four years, as our partnership and friendship has grown with friends at Harvest, relationships with children and adults in the neighborhood have also begun to blossom. In looking back, I would say that God has been using me as a catalyst for Christian community development, a connector, and somewhat of a chaplain in the neighborhood. I can "see" so many possibilities from and for the neighborhood, and I look forward to what God has in store as the great "Repairer of broken walls and Restorer of streets with dwellings."

The photo above is of 316 Walnut St. As of Friday, the house is now in the possession of Harvest Vineyard Church. This afternoon, eleven of us gathered in prayer and worship at the house as we dedicated it to Christ, surrendered it to God's good purposes, and committed to being his beloved community as we work together to restore the house so that it might be a Christian transitional home for men.

We believe God is at work and is binding together a missional community built on the foundation of Jesus Christ who will align with His heart and His redeeming work in the neighborhood!

Isaiah 58:12 "Your people will rebuild ancient ruins and will raise up age old foundations. You will be called Repairer of broken walls and Restorer of streets with dwellings."

whole gospel

A friend and I are teaching through a series written by World Vision and based on Richard Stearn's book The Hole in our Gospel. The video segment in our first week of class showed Stearns talking about how the Gospel is to be lived out in proclamation and compassion and justice. This whole Gospel shows evidence of caring about the whole person...body, mind, spirit, soul.

JeanJean and Kristie Mompremier were with us from Haiti in class on Sunday, and they gave such concrete examples of this truth. When they started in ministry, they knew their call was to go preach the Gospel. But as they walked along through their neighborhood and saw children eating ashes to try to fill their bellies, they unmistakenly heard from God. "Feed them". Now, five years and seven nutrition centers later, three hundred fifty children come four times a week for a meal, to hear Bible stories, to sing songs about Jesus, and to experience loving community. Many parents have been brought into this Christian community through their children, and the Gospel is spreading and bearing fruit as people are realizing their salvation and identity in Christ.

God's work through JeanJean and Kristie and United Christians International ( a great example of wholistic Christian Community Development as they have taught people agricultural techniques, trained pastors, fed children, built a school, two churches, fifteen houses, and poured 151 cement floors for homes...all in the last year. In a land of desperate poverty and spiritual oppression due to voodoo, Christ's light is breaking through and transforming this community. We have much to learn through their simple yet profound strategy. When interviewed in class on Sunday, JeanJean said, "We pray, we care, and we share."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

do hard things

I read a book in the last year entitled Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations written by Alex and Brett Harris. These twin teenagers challenge readers to imagine "what is possible for teens who actively resist cultural lies that limit their potential."

I thought of that book this weekend as I watched Megan Pattee, an 18 year old college freshman, follow to completion a vision God had given her for an art show. Last evening's Heart Project was a tangible glimpse of teens doing great things with God. Five thousand dollars was raised to help partners in Haiti equip their new school, all under the leadership of Megan whose passion drove and energized the whole project. Thanks for the inspiration, Megan!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

classic Saturday

A Quaker born in Philadelphia, Hannah Whitall Smith (1832-1911) wrote The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life. In the excerpt found in Devotional Classics she addresses people's problem of feeling burdened by Christian service by writing of the cure: surrender of the soul to God's perfect will.

"What you need to do, then, dear Christian, if you are in bondage in the matter of service, is to put your will over completely into the hands of the Lord, surrendering it to Him the entire control of it...Many Christians love God's will in the abstract, but carry great burdens in connection with it. From this also there is deliverance in the wonderful life of faith. For in this way of life, no burdens are carried, no anxieties felt. The Lord is our burden-bearer, and upon Him we must lay off every care. He says, in effect, "Be careful for nothing, but make your requests known to me, and I will attend to them all.

Be careful for nothing. he says, not even your service. Why? Because we are so utterly helpless that no matter how careful we were, our service would amount to nothing! What have we to do with thinking whether we are fit or not fit for service? The Master-workman surely has a right to use any tool He pleases for His own work, and it is plainly not the business of the tool to decide whether it is the right one to be used or not. He knows; and if He chooses to use us, of course we must be fit. And in truth, if we only knew it, our chief fitness is in our utter helplessness. His strength is made perfect, not in our strength, but in our weakness. our strength is only a hindrance."

Are you serving out of duty or desire? Is serving Christ a joy or a burden? Prayers for us all this week to serve in Christ and out of His good and freedom-producing will.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

art with a heart

Youth Art Team's finale last night included ice cream sundaes, presentations to each artist, family and friends as guests, JeanJean and Kristie Mompremier spoke a little about Haiti, and we listened as Heidi and the team reminded us about loving humans through our gifts and talents. Megan Pattee, who organized the Heart Project Art Show, was also able to join us for the evening all the way from her college in Missouri.

The Waterloo Courier had an article in yesterday's paper and a Youth Art Team video on their website. You can see these by clicking on the following links:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

the Heart Project

The Youth Art Team ( nears its six week culmination with the upcoming Heart Project, this Saturday, November 20, from 4-6 p.m. at Orchard Hill Church's atrium/coffeeshop (east end).

The team's 23 paintings will be on sale, and all proceeds will go to help fund a school that has recently been opened by our partners in Haiti.

Also at the Heart Project art show: many local artists displaying and selling their work, and JeanJean, Kristie, Tana, and Kerri Mompremier will be here from Haiti to talk about the Christian community development work that is happening and to sell local Haitian art.

College Freshman, Megan Pattee, received a whisper from God this summer about organizing a Heart Project art show, and wa-la, she's carried the vision all the way to the actual show this Saturday! Young People doing great things with God!

Come check out the creative goodness and maybe do a little Christmas shopping that makes a world of difference!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

classic Saturday

Today's quote from the Journal of John Woolman (1720-1772). A lesson I still need much practice with-

"It requires great self-denial and resignation of ourselves to God to attain that state wherein we can freely cease from fighting when wrongfully invaded, if by our fighting there were a probability of overcoming the invaders. Whoever rightly attains to it does in some degree feel that spirit in which our Redeemer gave his life for us, and through divine goodness many of our predecessors and many now living have learned this blessed lesson. But many others, having their religion chiefly by education and not being enough acquainted with that cross which crucifies to the world, do manifest a temper distinguishable from that of an entire trust in God."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Christmas Store and Christmas Craft

Find out more about how you can get involved through the Christmas Craft Fair and Christmas Store coming up December 11.

p.s. do I talk with my hands a lot or what?!

Monday, November 8, 2010

hope is winning

A friend named Molly has been on staff with Youth With a Mission over the past four years in Battambang, Cambodia. Last week, Molly's mom and sister, Sue and Erin, along with three other good friends from church, traveled to go spend a couple of weeks with Molly. Here's a report from our friend Maribeth emailed today:

Dear Friends,

We hope this finds everyone well in Iowa and beyond. We arrived in Battambang yesterday afternoon after a 3 hour bus ride from Siem Reap. It was a great way to see the Cambodian countryside. Miles of rice fields as far as the eye could see, traffic going multiple directions and a bus driver who honked enthusiastically every mile or so. He liked his horn, for sure. We enjoyed Cambodian music videos on a TV at the front of the bus, too. Once in Battambang, a city that is much more spread out than Siem Reap, less touristy, and yet with a population of 250,000, we moved into our new headquarters, hopped in a tuk-tuk and rode to the YWAM base.

This is where we met all the people so near and dear to Molly's heart these last four years. How much they love her, too! Young Cambodians (ages 18-25?) flowed out of the base, so eager and excited to finally meet Sue and Erin! We ate a communal dinner with them, and enjoyed great conversation with Molly's friends and fellow YWAM staffers. Marla and I sat at a table with one young man who talked in beginner's English about his own growing faith. At first animated, he then began talking about his family-- particularly his parents, and how his decision to become a Christian had alienated him from his family. He was the "only one" he said, meaning the only Christian, and there had been a price to pay in terms of his loved ones. That night, as we chatted outside with these faith-filled Cambodians, chanting from the Buddhist monks could be heard in the distance.

Today, we hit the ground running after a breakfast buffet at the hotel that included hotdogs, vegetables, rice, fish, and many things we had never seen, much less eaten before. Sue was looking for her bran flakes, but alas.: ) We attended a worship service on the YWAM base, with songs sung in alternating Khmer and English. How cool to hear familiar worship songs sung in Khmer! After that, we went to an orientation for life in Battambang and on the base and visited a small orphanage started by the YWAM staff. There, a baby, a toddler and his brother are cared for so lovingly by YWAM staff. To get there, we walked through a slum area that was heartbreaking. If you've ever seen the "Save the Children" commercials, you already have a sense for what a slum looks like and how people are forced to lived. Wrenching and wrong.

We also visited a government run orphanage that cares for 270 children. It was more of a campus, with individual houses for children of varying ages. It had impeccably groomed landscaping with flowers everywhere and a clean environment for the children. Talking about Jesus, however is not allowed, so while YWAM can volunteer or run a big event at the orphanage, their faith cannot be shared.

A young YWAM staffer named Anna has an over-the-top ambitious dream that we toured today as well. She's starting a restaurant/bistro called Cafe Eden. I wish you could all see the scope of the vision she has. Nestled in downtown Battambang, YWAM bought a run-down four story building that leaked like crazy (during rainy season, Anna, slept under a tarp), had structural impossibilities, needed re-wiring and incredible sweat equity. Once finished, the restaurant will provide many valuable jobs for local Cambodians and will create revenue for other ministries, including one that reaches out to the street children just down the street.

Tomorrow is another health clinic, this time in a slum area. We're prepared to be broken again. How can you not be?

And yet, we agree with the t-shirt message we saw in the YWAM "shop"

today... "HOPE IS WINNING". When you see first-hand what a team of

young people who are sold out for Christ can do-- you feel it and you

see it. Hope is winning. It always has, it always will.

All the best,

Maribeth, Jane, Erin, Marla and Sue

quote of the day

"Too often I looked at being relevant, popular, and powerful as ingredients of an effective ministry. The truth, however, is that these are not vocations but temptations. Jesus asks, 'Do you love me?' Jesus sends us out to be shepherds, and Jesus promises a life in which we increasingly have to stretch out our hands and be led to places where we would rather not go. He asks us to move from a concern for relevance to a life of prayer, from worries about popularity to communal and mutual ministry, and from a leadership built on power to a leadership in which we critically discern where God is leading us and our people."

- Henri Nouwen In the Name of Jesus

Sunday, November 7, 2010

city reflections

Did you watch the 16 minute video of Dr. Bakke that I posted a few days back? What grabbed you in it?

Several of his statements cause reflection for me...

-40% of the world lives in India and China; only 4% live in the U.S.
-The 4% that do live in the U.S. are more and more multi-ethnic. Neighbors of every color, nationality, and culture are the reality; we really are a global village.

My ethnocentric notions are challenged when I read these statistics. White power and privilege that are embedded in me due to my environment and upbringing are challenged when I read these statistics and realize what a small minority I am in a much larger world. I think about how important it is for me not to socially isolate with people like myself but to intentionally spend time with a diverse span of people so that I might gain a better sense of others' perspectives and realities.

-Bakke talks about the period when churches were fleeing from the cities in the 60's and after.
-He also talked about how our world is becoming more and more urban as city populations expand.

I think about the Early Church. When the Plague hit and people began fleeing the cities, it was the Church that fought against the traffic and went into the city to care for the sick and dying.
Do we see the Church returning to the hard places in our cities or have we been fleeing with everyone else to self-protect?

-500 world cities have 1 million or more people in them.
-"80% of those in state prisons in New York come from six neighborhoods in New York City. We can pay $50,000-$100,000 to incarcerate a person, or we can do something about the six neighborhoods."

My community has about 110,000 people in it. The problems and needs in the city are still complex and big, but the smaller size of our community makes it easier to become familiar with it. I listened to our county sheriff speak the other day about his work and our county jail. We have the 3rd largest jail in Iowa, and there are currently 240 beds full. Sheriff Thompson's passion is to help break the cycle for families and provide environments for children that will help them to overcome the generational pattern. Not every Christ-follower will be called into such a vision and passion, but I am of the belief that the Church should be leading in these efforts of restoring community and working toward shalom in even some of the hardest places within our cities. If we hear Jesus say "follow me" and we look to see where he walked so that we can follow, I'm thinking we will travel into some places that we as the Church have largely been ignoring.

Those are just a few of my thoughts as I heard the interview. What did you think about as you watch the Bakke interview (posted 2 days ago) about how U.S. cities are changing?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

classic Saturday

William Temple (1881-1944) from his writings Christianity and Social Order:

"In making the world God brought into existence vast numbers of things, like electrons which always have to obey his law for them to do so. But he made creatures-men and women-who could disobey his law for them and often do so. He did this in order that among his creatures there might be some who answer his love with theirs by offering to him a free obedience.

This involved a risk in that they would naturally take the self-centered outlook on life, and then, increasingly become hardened in that selfishness. This is what has happened. To win them out of this, he came on earth and lived out the divine love in human life and death. He is increasingly drawing us to himself by the love thus shown."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

something new

Youth Art Team ( and my friend, Heidi, are inspiring me these days. I had a terrible art teacher in elementary school, and there weren't any aspiring artists in my family either. Therefore, I have few to no memories of me drawing, painting, creating art as a youngster. I entered my teen and adult years with the mindset of "I can't draw" and left it at that.

Over the past few weeks, as I've watched youth art team members, including my daughter, use watercolors in their sketchbooks and begin to paint on canvas, I thought, "Why not?" Why not try my own hand at this when there is no risk, no expectation, just freedom to experiment? So, off to Hobby Lobby last week to purchase some art supplies at home for me and family members. What to paint became the next question.

Our church sends out a daily Scripture encouragement, and over the next three weeks staff members are sharing a verse and thought about a Scripture that reminds them of their identity in Christ. What if I read through the verses and spent some time reflecting on them as I painted a picture related to each verse shared?

That's what I've done the past three days. Three observations I'm making:

1. I may not be the next Picasso, but it's been really fun.
2. I have really liked interacting with Scripture in this very new way these past few days.
3. I enjoy trying new adventures that I'd never considered previously in my life before a few years ago...a marathon, piano lessons, and now a little watercolor in my life.

What "something new" do you think you might want to try your hand at this fall?

Monday, November 1, 2010


I listened to a teaching at church this morning on how we humans become deceived in believing that who we are is found in 1) what we do 2) what we have 3) what others say about us. These addictions of power and position, possessions, and approval make us believe our security and worth is wrapped up in ourselves rather than in the One in whom we find our truest identity.

This afternoon was a beautiful fall day, and as I took our German Shepherd for a walk out on our country roads, I reflected back on the greatest schooling on my identity in my lifetime. Twelve years ago, I was pregnant with our first child and working full-time in a youth ministry position at the church of my childhood. I was steeped in ministry, activities, and relationships at the church, and I was awaiting the arrival of our baby boy right around the Christmas holidays. Everything turned dramatically on a dime. Our son was stillborn, and eight weeks later, not long after my return to work, our church body fell into heavy conflict and division. Six months later, after gut-wrenching months of conflict, I resigned and left the church.

Those months after the loss of our child and the loss of my job found me either sitting in a living room recliner for hours upon hours with my Bible and God or walking the bike trails with our first German Shepherd who has since passed away. God dealt with me about identity to my core. I could no longer base my identity on what I did…what had been a passionate calling from God and a five year investment of my heart and life…was no more. I had experienced the birth of a child and knew what it felt like to be a parent, but I wasn’t doing parenting. I couldn’t base my identity on what I had….I did not have our child, and I did not have ministry as I knew it. I couldn’t base my identity on what people thought or said about me. There were many relationships that suffered through the church conflict, and I received the pain and anger of many people I had known since childhood.

So, there I was, laid out and feeling stripped before God with what was the greatest test of my identity. And in what was the deepest identity crisis of my life, God did the deepest work of my life. When it appeared that I was doing much of nothing for a good portion of the next year, God was actually doing some of his greatest growing of me that I’ve ever experienced. Those times with Him were the richest and most intimate of my experience to date. He rooted me in my identity in Christ, and I really believe it has shaped me differently in what I believe about my life and how I see and define Christ’s Church.

Our teacher this morning mentioned being still…silence/solitude/ceasing…as a counter measure to fight all of our doing. I will testify to this practice with all my heart and life. Quieting my inner and outer self to be centered in God, to hear from God, to remember who it is that really works, who holds the power and plans, and whom I belong to and answer to, is so critical to break the identity lie of I am what I do.